(Original Email Version)

Newsletter for October 2015

Write on!

You are encouraged to share a poem, a haiku, a meditative moment or submit a photo in our monthly Zenwest e-newsletter to news@zenwest.ca
Those wishing to be assigned small reporting duties of sangha events can connect with Hoyu, TommiWrites@gmail.com
Wanted: someone to cover our 10th Annual Zenwest Harvest Potluck.
Together “We Make Zen Come Alive!”

Oct 4: Sangha Sunday (Kokizan-ji)
Oct 6: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Oct 13: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Oct 14: Wednesday Zendo (Roseberry)
OCt 18: Half-Day Zendo (Kokizan-ji)
Oct 20: Tuesday Evening (UVic)
Oct 23—25: Weekend Events with Genjo Osho (Kokizan-ji)
Oct 27 Tuesday Zendo Annual Memorial Ceremony(UVic)
Oct 28: Wednesday Zendo (Roseberry)
Special Events
Oct 4: Zenwest Workday at Kokizanji (following Sangha Sunday) 11:30—1:30
Oct 10, 17, 31, Nov 7: Orientation to Zen Group Course (Kokizan-ji 9:00am—11:00pm)
Oct 23—25 Weekend Events with Genjo Osho (Kokizanji)

Deepen Your Practice with Genjo Marinello, Osho
Abbot of Chobo-ji in Seattle
October 23–25, 2015Associates and members of the public are welcome to attend the Friday evening session only (suggested donation $20.)Please note that a prerequisite for attending Saturday or Sunday of this weekend intensive is having completed either Intensive Preparation course, or previous intensive training experience with Zenwest.

If you wish to attend, your registration must be received before Friday Oct 16, 2015.

Complete details can be found at zenwest.ca.

How fortunate we are that Genjo so generously shares the spirit of his many years of practice and teaching!

The Third Treasure

Some Thoughts on Sangha/Community by Eko Joshua Goldberg

Community can mean many things – a shared physical place, a sense of belonging to a group, support, friendship, a sense of home or refuge, people working together towards a common goal. Zenwest has, for me, been all of these things at different times. By sitting together repeatedly over time, we develop an intimacy with the physical space and with each other. Together we create a community of practice.

Yet it feels at times that in Zenwest many of us have drawn a line between life inside and outside the zendo. How do we care for each other and the world when we are not sitting together? This question comes back to what it means to me to be in community.

Everyone in Zenwest is a householder. We are all very busy. Many of us are constantly pulled between Zenwest, family, work, self-care, and other responsibilities.

In other communities I’m part of, we make time for each other by deliberately embedding ourselves in each other’s lives. We know each other’s families, take turns doing childcare, cheer kids’ performances, leave cookies at each other’s doors. Together we pick up litter, fold pamphlets, pick fruit, dig gardens, paint banners, organize fundraisers. Because we are so in each other’s lives, we notice when someone is struggling. Nobody drifts away. When someone is sick we take turns sitting at a bedside, knitting blankets, making soup. When someone dies we sit with the bereaved, bearing witness to grief, listening to remembrances of the person who has passed, cooking and doing laundry.

We also have disagreements, arguments, and flat-out fights. We let each other down, piss each other off, hurt each other’s feelings, shine a spotlight on the ways each other is stuck and obstinate, retreat into sullenness. But because we love the community, we persist in reconciling, to take the risk of facing conflict instead of avoiding or suppressing it. We do this even without the benefit of a shared spiritual practice, messily but with love and determination to remain in community.

It is juicy practice to be so intertwined. From our commitment to explicit interconnection, we simultaneously mutually support each other to deal with difficulties as they arise and also produce a more intense situation than we could create on our own – just like intensive Zen practice.

The controlled and structured space of the zendo is a supportive laboratory to experiment with what it means to be in community. Outside the zendo, we are challenged to be harmonious with each other in the complexity of everyday life. In Zenwest we have done this sporadically and inconsistently.

And yet we are being called to engage, not only to protect Zenwest but also this earth. We are living in difficult and precarious times, facing daunting global challenges such as climate change, depletion of natural resources, mass extinctions, drought, poverty and war. None of these are problems that can be solved alone; we need to work together. But living in a culture that emphasizes individualism, consumerism, and distractions we have lost skills relating to being in community. If we are willing, our Zen sangha gives us the opportunity to help each other regain these skills, from the deep understanding that when difficulties arise we can use these difficulties to deepen our practice rather than running away.

Report on Strategic Planning – September 2015

By Rev Doshu Rogers

Every year in September the Abbot, board, and interested members come together to review what has been happening at Zenwest during the year, and to plot a strategy for the coming year.  We solicit input from our members and associates via an online survey, and bring our individual and collective experience to bear on the best way to meet the challenge of our purpose “to make Zen come alive!”, and to move toward our ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ (BHAG):

  • To be the #1 Zen Centre in Canada
  • Rural, full time residential training centre, which will offer a structured schedule of training
  • City practice centre: accessible to all, known to everyone in Victoria, offering a variety of activities so people can participate at whatever level they’re at
  • Multiple teachers
  • Leader in online resources and support for remote practitioners

These are big shoes to fill, particularly as over the last year and a half or so we have had some decline in membership, more folks who have had to engage with our financial hardship policy resources, and some missed fundraising drive targets.  In light of this, the board had asked Eshu Osho to prepare a few alternate basic operational models that do not rely on our supporting a full time paid Abbot (him), so we could take another hard look at this most basic pillar of our operational structure: that we hire a full time Abbot and reap the considerable benefits that arise therefrom, and accept the financial challenges that result, including significant membership fees, and reliance on member support for additional quarterly fundraising efforts.

There weren’t a lot of ‘happy campers’ around the table for our first meeting at which we considered what Zenwest would look like with no paid Abbot, or with a part time Abbot.  The implied loss of what we have worked for years to build was really quite staggering to me.  Fortunately, my experience with this group is that every few years there comes an existential crisis, and each time our community has stepped up and found a bold way forward.  The meeting concluded in this spirit, as we settled on a plan based on longtime member Eko’s offer to work with Eshu Osho as a volunteer part-time administrative assistant, in order to free up some of Eshu Osho’s time for teaching and other activities likely to result in increased engagement of existing members, and attraction of new members.  Depending on how things work out, this may lead to our having a part-time paid position in administration at Zenwest.  It was a renewed and revitalized group that left that first meeting!

At the second meeting we did a lot of brainstorming of Zenwest’s structure based on a powerful planning approach, which we have used and refined over the years, the ‘Business Model Canvas’ (see photo).  Armed with colourful markers, multiple pads of ‘sticky notes’, and the limitless imagination of the Abbot and a thoroughly engaged 20% of our membership present, we ‘had at it’ in a day-long session of refining how to deliver the services our members want, in the most effective way.  Out of this came a list of key initiatives focusing more on the strengths of our sangha community connections that will guide us forward.

Zen practice has been described as ‘walking a knife’s edge’, and co-creating the operational side of our organization is certainly a manifestation of this!  I continue to be blown away by the dedication, resolve, and generosity of our Abbot and everyone in this community.  Truly, to everyone I offer nine bows.

Walking in Silence – 4th Annual Galloping Goose Pilgrimage 2015

By Terry Nathan

On Sunday September 20th, 2015, sixteen of us took part in Zenwest’s 4th annual pilgrimage from downtown Victoria, to Kokizan-ji in Sooke, a total of 36 km done over 8 hours. The weather was predicted to be unpredictable, a chance of showers with sunny and/or cloudy periods. The meteorologists turned out to totally correct as we experienced all of that on our walk. Along the way we met many other Victorians on the Galloping Goose, and like the weather, we received all manner of responses, ranging from conceited disbelief, to shoe gazing, to deep smiles and hellos.

We all walked the same path but if you asked each of us what it was like we’d have completely different ways of describing it. My experience was this, but if you get the chance, go ahead and ask any of the participants how the pilgrimage was for them.

Mist hung in the hills and fluffy white clouds sped overhead as we walked a path paved in yellow, orange and gold. Puddles held the sky and outlines of the oak branches above us, and we were visited by rain and sun alike. A warm wind moved through the trees, blowing loose more leaves to adorn the forest floor and pathway. As the hours past the trees grew taller and thicker, the noise of traffic died away, and the reality of our leg pain became a little clearer. Eshu’s teisho was very direct and without words, letting his walking stick do the talking.

We walked by sunlit pasture and wet sheep, giant mushrooms and green slugs, lazy streams and slippery bridges, zippy dragonflies and dogs eating horse poo. We did it alone and we did it together. We ate and drank, we rested and then continued on, and when it was done Nikki welcomed us in for a hot drink and snacks. It was wonderful.

Thank you all for being there!

(Photo credit: Kozan Nishigaya)

Meet a Member: Elder Kido de Rosenroll
When did you start on the path? And where?

While I was getting into Aikido I started reading some martial classics including The Art of War and The Book of Five Rings. There was a brief explanation about Zen in the forward to The Book of Five Rings that included a telling of a famous Zen story (koan). It was about an old monk who carried a woman across a river when she needed it despite his vows, much to the dismay of his student. After that I knew it was something I wanted to learn more about so I picked up another book and started practicing diaphragm breathing and stopped listening to music while I walked. I typed ‘Zen Victoria’ into Google and ‘Victoria Zen Centre’ (previous name of Zenwest) showed up and I resolved to show up to the next public sit. My first Zen experience was the first Tuesday night of 2010 after a couple weeks wait for the zendo to come back into session after the end of year closure.

What, in terms of life challenges, brought you to the practice of meditation?

Nothing in particular; I was in the thick of my BSc at the time but my drive to practice mostly came out of my general desire to get healthier and take a more active role in my life and wellbeing.

Why do you continue?

The glimpses of clarity I get in my day to day life are more than enough to keep me coming back to the cushion.

What do you find, at this time, is your greatest challenge in walking the way?

Finding the time to get my ass on the cushion can be pretty hard. I’m just finishing my MSc, but I’m most likely jumping into my PhD pretty soon, so time management is going to continue to be big part of my practice for the foreseeable future. I’ve made it to almost every Tuesday and Thursday sit in the last 5 years, but sometimes my daily practice can slip through the cracks for a few days.

If you could share one bit of practical advice about sitting zazen what would it be?

Set up a conspicuous sitting area to serve as a reminder and get those knees on the ground! If you want to sit cross-legged (Burmese, easy-pose) but one or both of your knees are floating stuff some support underneath so your legs and hips can relax. You’ll build the flexibility a lot faster if you have something to sink into than if your muscles are working to keep you upright.

Finally, in three words can you express what Buddha, Dharma, Sangha means for you?

Just do it!

Photo by Hōyū Butler

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